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Human memory vs. Computer memory


I found the lecture on memory storage from the start of the semester very interesting, and I have been thinking about it quite a lot. Recently I lost about a week’s worth of data from my laptop and it got me thinking about memory more.
One of the things I had lost was the project file for a new track I’d been working on. The track was sort of finished, but I hadn’t been happy with the ending and there were some touchups I would have liked to make. However, I was now unable (at least without a lot of work) not able to do so. Fortunately for me, I had exported and uploaded the unfinished track on Soundcloud (privately), so I still had what I’d made. Instead of ditching the track (as I sometimes would in this case), I decided to work around the context of the lost project file.
The track is musically very simple, revolving around a piano loop and a breakbeat and some speech samples. The main speech sample says “Take this mild drug, and you will have a nice sleep without any nightmares.” So I thought about how when I don’t sleep well (as is often the case), it usually revolves around some uncomfortable memory, and the ingestion of a drug would be to effectively ‘repress’ these memories. Perhaps my laptop needed to repress some memories and that was the problem?
I thought this fit weirdly well with the structure of the song as well. The repetitive nature of it, accompanied with growing distortion and a sudden cut at the end mimics (at least for me) the process of trying to sleep and the stress involved (sometimes), followed by the sudden unconsciousness. The track can be found here:


I made some artwork to reflect this as well. I started with an MRI Brain scan, that I distorted using a ‘pinch’ tool (I changed the colours too). This was to mimic shrinkage in the brain (associated with memory loss), but also happened to make a nice pattern (pictured right). This aesthetically pleasing result of my ‘damaged’ brain reminded me of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, which provides some interesting insight into human memory (as well as just being a great film).
Anyway, I wasn‘t totally satisfied with this as a final artwork, so I went in search of a damaged polaroid filter (I guess to make my point more obvious). The one I settled on has the appearance of the top half being burned away, which when overlaid with the MRI scan, removes most of the brain (pictured left).



I guess my thoughts at the end of this have been about how we like to intervene with memory. A perfect memory is often seen as a virtue, and yet I’m sure most people have things they would rather forget. Preservation of memory is perhaps easier, particularly in this age where you can record almost anything you do. The removal of human memories is something that people perhaps fantasise about, and is actually the basis of the afore-mentioned ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. There would of course be problems surrounding this (which is explored in the film), as often our negative experiences shape us, and the removal of them would make us ‘less human’. As I don’t want to babble (I may have already), I’ll finish on a Nietzsche quote:

“Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.”

External Signal Processing w/ Coil Pick Up


I’ve been thinking about how to expand the use of my newly acquired coil pick up, and i’ve been recently playing around with a couple basic external signal processing patches (trigger our/in, CV in, V-F converter) with my Korg MS-20, you put one and one together and you get this;


Although this is a rather stripped down basic patch/setup, it has the potential to be a foundation for more experimentation – I plan on creating my own monstrosity of a coil pick up and doing some further weird things.


Screenwriting rant

Tldr; passive-aggressive vagueing about narrative structure being haaaaard

Screenwriting has been interesting so far. I picked it because I wanted to expand my writing skills a bit, because I thought I would like it more than stage scripts and because it might be relevant to any attempts at games writing/narrative design I make in the future. I don’t think its too early to say that its achieved all of those pretty well already. I’ve already learned a lot about the format, about screen directions and plot structure (reading the screenplay for the Night Manager was a really helpful exercise), but there are some elements I’ve struggling with as well.

Namely, dramatic structure. The good old ‘who’s our protagonist, what do they want, why can’t they have it’ formula, with 5 main plot points starting with the inciting incident and ending with the character changing in some way, maybe getting what they wanted, but never in the way they thought they would get it. That one, as reductively misrepresented here.

On the one hand, I’m definitely not claiming it doesn’t work. I can’t claim better than the combined history of cinema and television, which both seem pretty sold on it. Learning it and sticking to it is almost certainly going to serve me very well in future projects. But right now, as we’re pitching our script ideas to our tutor and plotting out our screenplays, it feels like satisfying all the demands of narrative structure in a novel way is more or less the only metric of whether or not a script has the potential to be any good.

Which makes sense, I suppose. A script has to be pitched, directed and produced, after all, and I don’t pretend to be an avant-garde genius that knows a better way of banking on the narrative potential of a piece of writing. My complaints are probably all fairly typical prose-writer-y complaints: I do feel a bit naked with all my precious backstory exposition and internal character voice stripped away.

It’s not as if I don’t like my current dramatic-structure-approved screenplay idea, but it is definitely a few numbers down the list of ideas I’m excited about working on. The others were all beyond the scope of what we get to do on this module or just didn’t fit the narrative structure well enough for me to convince my tutor they’d be worth working on.

Which is also reasonable. It’s not as if I’m going to try something that actively goes against that formula, if only because I lack a compelling reason to do so. I can keep my less dramatically-satisfying ideas for other projects. But it would be nice to get something more than a working understanding of screenwriting and colour-by-numbers screenplay out of this module.

There definitely are scripted narratives that rely on elements other than dramatic structure in order to be good. But that doesn’t get me anywhere, unless I’m in a situation where I can surrender the burden of making-the-thing-good to animators or graphic designers or software engineers.

Who knows where I’m going with this rant. At the end of the day, this has already been a great learning experience. But even if a colour-by-numbers screenplay does end up happening to help me secure a decent mark, I’m going to see if I can’t find a way to bend this piece of coursework a little bit more to my purposes, one way or another.



MUS8161: Thank You, Free Music Practice

Morning Smoke

I cannot express how much I’m enjoying getting stuck into the Free Music Practice module. We’re building on some of the ideas I was toying with in HSS8120- like my ‘considered un-consideration’ theory. I’ve found the sessions and seminars really very inspiring, and in the process of completing my portfolio submission I think I’m creating some interesting work [pictures, writing and music].

It comes as a ‘discovery‘ for me; I haven’t grown up surrounded by these ideals of art, I have had my own experience with it’s own implications- and as such, the act of creating with the specific intent of ignoring perceived limitations has been a real liberation in a sense, and an eye-opener in another. It’s like disregarding the rules has made me more aware of all the things I was imposing upon myself without even realising.

Pictured above, is an essay I’m currently writing for the module. I’m approaching this in the spirit of the rest of the work; in this case, I’m writing it in smalls chunks (as much or as little as I want), when/wherever I feel like it, before censoring it over so I can’t see what I’ve just written. I’m fairly certain this will produce some sporadic results, I just hope it makes sense enough to be good- although, maybe I don’t?

In other news, below is an edit of a session with ‘Lemon Knxledge,’ an improvising band that we’ve started in perfect timing for this module. I think we’re going to do a performance at the start of next month courtesy of a gig that Ares is organising? Sunday 2nd April, upstairs in the evening at Bar Loco.

Vocals – Alexei Crawley

Synths – Ben Woolsey

Guitar – Garry Lydon

Drums – Jonah Scholfield-Lott


DMS8013: 5. 3D and Making: ‘we cannot discuss “things” outside of their shape’


I was standing inline in a farm equipment shop in Montana once, buying parts for a project, when I noticed that of seven people in the line I was the only one who had two working pairs of hands. eyes. ears or legs. Until then, I had flattered myself that I worked with my hands. Chris Csikszentmihalyi, 16 Reflective Bits about the Maker Movement.


  • To look at some tools and technologies for drawing, animating and making in 3D
  • To learn about how computers ‘see’ 3D space
  • To think about the politics of making artefacts with computers

Tools and Technologies

We are taking on (or possibly conflating) a lot in one session here. We might break down some of the tools to include:

  • Generative 3D (graphics and modelling). Software includes; Processing, Grasshopper/Rhino, Openframeworks, Cinder
  • Building software for CNC (computer numerical control) such as; Solidworks, Sketchup,
  • 3D animation/modelling/gaming e.g. Maya, 3D Studio Max, Cinema 4D, Unity

Despite this (arguable) conflation, there are a lot of things we can think about in common between (some of) them such as:

  • use of coordinate space x,y,z
  • terminology and concepts including; textures, normals, uv mapping, vertices, edges, faces
  • OPENGL (and DirectX); matrix transformation, graphics buffers, renders, lighting, cameras

Seeing 3D space

In high performance applications 3D graphics are processed on the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) rather than the CPU (Central Processing Unit). The GPU has a frame buffer(s) – a chunk of memory for storing pixel data and a processor setup that’s good for doing a lot of things in parallel (like transforming matrix data).

The matrix

Drawing things in 3D is complicated. A lot of the more difficult things are wrapped up for us in environments like Processing or Openframeworks but sometimes it helps to have an idea what’s going on underneath. To take an example of this let’s have a look at ‘vertex winding’ (see the openframeworks docs for more).


Another example is in so-called ‘matrix transformations’.

There’s an excellent introduction into matrix translations here. If you like that kind of thing, you can also find the maths here.


“a realist guarantee for the unreal”

The industry has expended huge amounts of time and money trying to mimic the way objects behave in real life or in early art forms (such as Renaissance painting). For instance see this article about cameras, this one about lights and this about physics (specifically it’s about Box2D an ‘engine’ for recreating collisions, gravity etc behind the hit game ‘Angry Birds’).

The ‘Maker Movement’

So far we’ve mostly discussed 3D on screens but of course the development of 3D modelling tools is connected to a hugely important phenomenon – that of the modern 3D prototyping ‘fab’ lab and more broadly the ‘Maker Movement’.

Makers’ Bill of Rights

Politics and Prosumerism

One perspective on the Maker Movement is that is a manifestation of political action in the form of prosumerism. It is a reaction to the blandness and homogeneity of industrial capitalism. If we can modify, hack and create for ourselves, this is ostensibly a form of political protest. Many commenters point out though that this aspect of maker culture has been effectively co-opted by industry – in particular O’Reilly, Maker Faire and Make magazine.

‘What is called ‘making’ in North America and Europe is. frankly, a luxurious pastime of wealthy people who rightly recognise that their lives are less full because they are alienated from material culture, almost all of which is products produced by corporate interests. Sadly, rather than address the problem. makers develop a hobby that solves the symptom for them, but if anything slightly strengthens the disease.’ Chris Csikszentmihalyi, 16 Reflective Bits about the Maker Movement.

‘Socially engaged making, of necessity. is engaged in a dialectic with its alternatives: commercial and corporate mass production on the one hand, and craft on the other Even when making is about self-expression. practitioners choose this form because they are attracted to the technological product as a genre. […] Making is always a political act. even if the denotative utility of the thing made is not political.’ Chris Csikszentmihalyi, 16 Reflective Bits about the Maker Movement.

Other Material Cultures

The point about material culture though is an interesting one, for artists specifically. For some the connection between non-linear computer technologies and the capacity to create things in the physical world is a way of re-evaluating craft practice. It’s also worth noting that the intersection of traditional crafts (such as knitting) and contemporary technologies (like arduino) has proved an in-point for people who don’t necessarily identify with common tropes of computing aesthetics – e.g. chip tunes, glitch, computer vision generated imagery, projection mapping etc.

Image Varvara and Mar

…and ‘Other’ Communities

As I hinted above, one kind of value, perhaps, for the Maker Movement (or better movements) is in fostering particular kinds of community, often but not always around a particular maker space or project. For instance Kaiton Williams on Jamaican DIY describes how his father’s propensity to tinker inflected the son’s future engagement with the material world. A perceived value for the made outputs of many communities is in expressing a vision for the material world which is not produced by a narrow band of society and is consequently reflective of other kinds of value and priority. None of this is necessarily contingent on access to CNC-type tools but there is a sense in which assuming contemporary forms of production proposes a different kind of ‘answer’ to the dominance of mass produced products. A nice example to finish on is here. In this project, Kuznetsov and her co-authors build arduino based soil quality sensors with members of a community garden. Cheap and accurate commercial sensors are available but the authors describe the value of the building process in learning about the specifics of the local soil chemistry, interacting with their environment and perceiving time differently.

Further Reading

A truly excellent resource for reading about Critical Making can be found here.

Pre Task

Read the article here on matrix translations and code the accompanying examples.

Read Geert Lovink and Michael Dieter on Making in the Digital Age here. Come prepared to explain one of the theses and explain why you agree or disagree.

And also look at processing examples in the following sections:


Total Bombardment


A blog about blogging.

Prepare for total bombardment!! I haven’t blogged in a wee while but there is lots to tell!!

I realise I haven’t blogged about anything I have been working on pre/post post-truth so I have plans to drop all retrospective bits n bobs on you in the coming days. Yippeeeeee.

Solar Circuitry


Look, okay, I’m not that great at this blogging thing/ maybe.  I’m trying so be nice.

A little time ago now, we built some synthesizers using circuit breadboards and colourful little wires. Attached to our little circuits were some little solar panels; which detect little rays of light, and changed things a little bit accordingly-you could sort of alter the order of things within the circuit for differing effects as well.

We took these little devices a little but out of culture lab and annoyed the general public a little with a symphony of eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

This project got me a little hot under the collar, and all excited about circuits. It was a little bit like being back in little school, as I have very vague memories of doing Basic Circuit Stuff then.

In the little video above, you can see some stylish and aesthetic close ups of our devices. I also decided to colour the whole thing with a tinge, to reflect the melancholic feelings of all the people we irritated doing this little project.

Writing with constraints

I’m reading about the Oulipo at the moment (tldr: they’re a movement of mostly French-speaking writers and mathematicians that impose constraints upon their work to spark new ideas and creativity). I came to them off the back of interactive fiction and tabletop games, since those are both forms which impose very specific restrictions on their creators and/or audiences, but so far the Oulipo has gotten me thinking more about poetry.

I used to really hate writing in traditional poetic forms: sonnets, haikus, vilanelles, etc (limericks get a pass), but more recently I have found adhering to specific forms or rules productive in one or two cases. I intend to pursue this further, trying out some new forms perhaps or finding some new ‘constraints’ to play with once I dig a bit further into the reasoning behind the Oulipo, but here are my examples for now:

Predictive – written using phone’s ‘suggested word’ function, cut down and formatted (it seems that this is what my phone thinks I type about):

On the other hand
you’re looking forward to the utopia
a lot more than just being able to be
in the morning

all art is truth through a film and
I was stressed about deadlines
and a good idea to be
in the morning

and that abomination of your control
the statue of liberty
and hang out with everyone

a mushroom cloud, black poison
a mushroom, cloud computing is truth in sand.
a mushroom soup
a mushroom cloud, the narrator of your vision

I was so happy for each update on Saturday,
the one about adding an additional download
four times a day I hope
you have a war of words between stereotypes and hearts

the first time since I was waiting for each update
on Saturday I was stressed about deadlines
and a random number
for the first time since the battle

for the first time since the battle for
the first time in space I probably wouldn’t be much fun
for the first time since his spinal cord injury
and hearts are you holding

a good holiday season is constantly changing their minds
and hearts in the chaos
resulting from the tidal wave
striking the first eighteen years of your control

over your control over the statue of a known individual
on the other hand you’re looking forward
to being able to be
severely limited in the morning

and hearts are
we going back to the bottom of a bustling city
it would help if they were not meant to exist
on god’s green acre

an expression of a known issue with the new year
everyone has reportedly been extremely violent
a known abomination has reportedly been sighted
near the first eighteen years of your experience.
Nothing is Sacred – a sestina (six stanzas, each with six lines, and each line must end with a specific word in a rotating pattern):

‘Nothing is sacred but the sea,’
says the sailor, nearing port.
The cold wind stirs the whiskers on his chin.
He is no longer proud to be alive
the last remaining of his crew
a crime that he repents in vain.

The others prayed to God, in vain
for ‘nothing is sacred but the sea,’
or that’s what the captain told the crew
just as they were leaving port.
‘There’s only one law – stay alive,’
he said, as he rubbed his bearded chin.

The beard upon the captain’s chin
did shield him from the cold in vain.
A man needs more than warmth to stay alive
adrift upon the starving sea
and when for gold he would not make port
he made enemies of the homesick crew.

To mutiny he lost the crew
and they split a gash beneath his chin.
Pirates now, they could not return to port.
They sought some blessed sanctuary in vain
but found nothing sacred but the sea
and just one law – ‘stay alive’.

But they could not all come back alive
not without food, so lots were drawn among crew
for no meat goes to waste at sea.
Of those men with hollow, trembling chins
twelve of thirteen prayed in vain
and only one came back to port.

It was a ghost ship that returned to port
or, almost – the thirteenth sailor was still alive
his fellows did not die in vain.
When they asked what happened to the crew
he answered, red juice dripping from his chin
that nothing is sacred but the sea.

New Music – Possible Direction for Final Performance

I’ve been toying with the idea of creating ‘Metal’ music through purely electronic means in my head for a while now. This came about when thinking about my final performance in August. As much of the music I have made over the last few years has gone between Electronic Dance Music and Metal I think this would be an interesting way to subvert both practices. As I would be making electronic music, but not for a club context as I normally would; and I would be making metal music but not in a band context. How I would perform this is not clear to me yet, but I feel I’ve made progress towards a stylistic direction this week.

This was actually unintentional, and just started from me messing around with ‘dream2’ from the new Code Orange album when on a long train journey. I didn’t really have an intended outcome with this

(which is often how I like to create). This resulted in a lo-fi mash of genres from Trap to Gabber. Drawing from Gabber brought me to an interesting realisation actually. It is not a style of music I like,

however I found that using the style outside of a Dance-Music context gave me a different perspective (it’s basically an electronic blast-beat).
Anyway, here’s the track:

I’ll be starting work on some original (and performable) songs like this pretty soon…

DMS8013: 4. Algorithms and Generativity: The Map is not the Territory


  • To learn about the history of algorithms and generative computer code
  • To think about the ways that computers ‘model life’ or otherwise connect to the physical world
  • To experience creating generative systems

Algorithm (خوارزمي‎‎): “a description of the method by which a task is to be accomplished,”

History of Computer Science (and previously in mathematics)

In art/music/education Shintaro Miyazaki & Michael Chinen, Algorythmic Sorting

Literature and Poetry

The Oulipo and Exercises in Style, Raymond Queneau

Algorithmic Poetry


Formalism vs Action

The algorithm “is the unifying concept for all the activities which computer scientists engage in.” Provisionally a “de- scription of the method by which a task is to be accomplished,” the algorithm is thus the fundamental entity with which computer scientists operate.[…] But the algorithm is not simply the theoretical entity studied by computer scientists. Algorithms have a real existence embodied in the class libraries of programming languages, in the software used to render web pages in a browser (indeed, in the code used to render a browser itself on a screen), in the sorting of entries in a spreadsheet and so on.

Fuller, M. (2008). Software Studies: A Lexicon. Leonardo Books, MIT Press. p17

So (what I’ll call) the mode of material expression is vital, powerful etc.

A conception of the algorithm as a statement as Michel Foucault used the term might allow us to understand this approach a little better. For Foucault, the statement is not analytically reducible to the syntactic or semantic features of a language; it refers instead to its historical existence and the way that this historical existence accomplishes particular actions. […] As Foucault puts it in The Archaeology of Knowledge, “to speak is to do some- thing—something other than to express what one thinks, to translate what one knows, and something other than to play with the structure of language.

Fuller, M. (2008). Software Studies: A Lexicon. Leonardo Books, MIT Press. p17

Generativity: Modelling life?

In a sense we can think of the field of cybernetics as an orientation

Cybernetics: “Our bodies are hardware, our behavior software”

‘In a sense, the original purpose of Cybernetics was to produce a unified theory of the control levels and types of messages used by men and machines and processes in normal operation. Thus the history of computer technology may be interpreted as progress in making communication between men and machines more natural and complete. This remains an ideal definition however, because quite often in industry human beings have been adapted to inhuman machine schedules, rather than the other way around. What is less realized is that most businesses of any size have had to adapt themselves,more or less traumatically,to radically different patterns of administration and organization as the result of information structures made possible by computer systems. So in part Software addresses itself to the personal and social sensibilities altered by this revolution.’


‘It is now empirically clear that Darwinian evolutionary theory contained a very great error in its identification of the unit of sur-vival under natural selection. The unit which was believed to be crucial and around which the theory was set up was either the breeding individual or the family line or the subspecies or some similar homogeneous set of conspecifics. Now I suggest that the last 100 years have demonstrated empirically that if an organism or aggregate of organisms sets to work with a focus on its own survival and thinks that that is the way to select its adaptive moves, its “progress” ends up with a destroyed environ- ment. […] The flexible environment must also be included along with the flexible organism because, as I have already said, the organism which destroys its environment destroys itself. The unit of survival is a flexible organism-in-its-environment.’ Bateson, Gregory. “Form, substance, and difference.” Essential Readings in Biosemiotics (1970): 501. p508


 Software Information Technology. Its Meaning for Art.

Generative Code

Meanwhile in computer science bleeding to art practice people became interested in algorithmic modelling, generative processes on both ontological and processual levels.

Such as Conway and the game of life.

‘These artistic systems are not wholly deterministic, running an image through pre-set parameters until it reaches perfection. Indeed, Latham realized early on that the most interesting outcomes of his program were quite unforeseen by him: his evolutionary program could arrive at unexpected conclusions. Even if an artist programs the computer from the start, there will always be an important element of mystery in the working of the software. Such quirks render the computer less mechanistic (and predictable) and more “artistic,” because the outcome of certain operations cannot always be foreseen. is unpredictability can be harnessed in the same way as the chemical reactions of pigments, or the densities of stone. In other words, an artist develops a feel for its working and gradually incorporates its idiosyncrasies into their work, which itself changes subtly or overtly to accommodate these properties.’ Lambert, Nicholas, William Latham, and Frederic Fol Leymarie. “The emergence and growth of evolutionary art: 1980–1993.” ACM SIGGRAPH 2013 Art Gallery. ACM, 2013.
‘For Lev Manovich, contemporary generative art is distinctively concerned with complexity, unlike the paradigm of reduction that characterised abstraction in the visual arts in the first half of the twentieth century.’

‘Software art systems are concrete collections of objects, relations, actions and processes. In part they are formal but constructed ontologies, describing entities and their interrelations. These ontologies are partly metaphorical or figurative—constructing for example «agents» in an «environment.» They are also partly technical / textual, in the sense that the implementation of these figures occurs within the structures of a formal language with particular representational and computational limits. How do we read such systems, critically? They are literally texts, in their source code, but also in a critical sense, in that they involve specific figurations, relations, decisions, values and ideologies.’ Whitelaw, Mitchell. “System stories and model worlds: A critical approach to generative art.” Readme 100 (2005): 135-154.


Sketches from today: session_4_algorithms_and_generativity



Take my generative boids sketch and make it sing the music of the spheres. You’ll need to:

  • include processing sound library
  • decide what sounds you’re going to make
  • look in to the particles class and decide how you’re going trigger or affect the sounds. This should probably be some function of the distance between nearby particles